Title: Keeping Secrets
Tagline: Will Jessica and Elizabeth both break their promises? I reckon it’ll be 50-50.
Summary: Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield’s father teaches them a secret language called Ithig. All their friends want to know the secret too, but the twins have made a pact with their father not to give it away. Elizabeth, at least, intends to keep her promise. But Jessica can’t help herself, she teaches her best friend, Lila Fowler, the secret language. That means that soon the whole school will know Ithig.
Now the class decides to use the language against the one teacher they don’t like Ms. McDonald. They will speak only Ithig in class the day the school supervisor comes to review her. At first, Elizabeth is angry at Jessica for breaking her promise about Ithig but now Elizabeth wonders: should she break her own promise and warn Ms. McDonald?
This premise is a workable subplot at best, or a half-chapter incident at worst. Seriously, I didn’t think the authors would start dialling it in until at least Book 50.
Let’s look at the cover. The twins sit at a restaurant table, while a redhead listens in. Also, a triffid threatens to devour Left Twin.
[Dove: HIDE THE SALT! LET THE TRIFFID EAT!]
Let’s get one thing clear from the outset:
I hate this book.
So far, I’ve been lucky with my recaps. The books I’ve read have been largely fun, light romps not without their faults but still rather charming. Sure, I’ve fought through the usual waves of fat shaming and twisted messages, typical SVT fare, but overall, my feelings toward the books I’ve recapped have been indifferent at worst and positive at best.
I offer, without qualification or hint of irony, that Keeping Secrets is one of the worst things I’ve ever seen.
Not just Worst Book In The Series, or even Worst Book In The World.
Worst Thing I’ve Ever Seen.
And I’ve been to Hull.
[Wing: I’m so blessed, with how much Dove and Raven each disliked their books this month, too.]
Let’s kick off…
We start this insipid horror-show with Jessibeth stood in the kitchen at the Wakefield Compound, prattling on about the nature of their Father’s secret, which was expertly pre-vealed in the foreshadowing from Buried Treasure. In fact, when I think back to Buried Treasure, I’m nostalgic for the good old days. Days in which I’d not read Keeping Secrets, days in which I’d never heard of bloody Ithig. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Jessica, of course, thinks it’s something extravagant and delightful: a surprise trip to Europe. In the world in which actual humans live, of course, such a thing would be ridiculous, but in the exaggerated cartoon-like land of Sweet Valley, where privilege is dropped onto the reader like an ACME anvil onto Wile E Coyote, it guess it could be true. Happily, this is not a story that truly panders to Jessica’s every whim, so if Liz can’t get a horse, Jess can’t visit Hitler’s Bunker. [Dove: Jessica’s in the wrong genre. If she was in 90s YA horror, then… well, her parents would at least be Europe-bound.]
Elizabeth tries to bring her twin back to reality with talk of homework, and borrowed items, and sensible shoes. As usual, these early sections are used to cudgel-beat those following at home with the usual twinny bollocks.
“Elizabeth can’t stay mad at Jessica for long.”
“Elizabeth is the older sister by four minutes.”
“Jessica loves having fun and avoiding responsibility.”
“Jessica once hit a tortoise with a hockey stick. (The tortoise died, but it flew for a touch over 47 yards, which was Jessica’s PB at the time.)”
Eventually, after a thoroughly awful paragraph rehashing their differences one more time, the plot moves on via a loud noise emanating from the basement. The twins, home alone, are terrified.
Apparently, he’s been doing his laundry. Not, as you might expect, wanking like a gibbon. If your fourteen-year-old son is doing his own laundry, there’s only one real reason why, and it involves bodily fluids. Warning: Horrible Scottish Video Alert.
Next up, Daddy Wakefield arrives home, and more banter occurs.
“How are my favourite twins?” he asked.
Favourite twins, Daddy W? Your internet search history says different.
After some soft soap and flannel, the Elder Wakefield offers to take Jessibeth to Guido’s Pizza Place to share his secret with them. Because nothing says “private and secure” like a fucking pizza restaurant.
Jessica, the on-off human dustbin, says she’s eaten so much pizza lately she’s beginning to look like one. This information will be a blessing for Elizabeth, as if Jessica turns into a slice of pepperoni pizza then maybe people will be able to tell them apart. Not the staff of Sweet Valley Middle School, of course, as they are all COLOSSAL fuckwits who couldn’t tell a human being from a hot slice.
Talking of Jessica turning into a pizza, I presume that’s the plot of Super Edition #4: the Unicorns Go Hawaiian.
Elizabeth convinces Jessica that a trip to Guidos with their father is a grand idea. Eventually, Jessica comes round.
“You’re right. Besides, it’s not every day that a handsome man wants to take me out for dinner,” she said with a giggle.
Ew. EW. EEEEEW.
If this is playful? It fails.
If this is coquettish? It’s out of place.
If this is incestuous? It’s shuddersome.
Bad form, Jamie Suzanne!
The girls ready themselves for a full-on pizza assault on Guidos. For Jessica, this means choosing just the right outfit, which obviously gives Elizabeth some more space to discuss more things that Jessica embraces, such as untidiness, Unigibbons, and ritual sacrifice.
Eventually, as the three of them are leaving the house, the secret comes flooding out…
“Come on, Dad, please tell us,” [Jessica] pleaded. “I’ll die if I have to wait a second longer.”
“Don’t do that, it’ll ruin the secret,” Mr. Wakefield joked. Then he grew serious. “IthigI thithigink thithigis withigill cithigome ithigas ithiga sithiguprithigise.”
Like, what the fuck, dude?
Sorry. Of course, I mean “Lithigike, whithigat ithigthe fithiguck, dithigude?”
Let’s take a moment to consider this book, and Ithig in general…
Apparently, Pig Latin is quite a big thing.
I mention it because, aside from the obvious Ithig parallels, Pig Latin was never something that scaled my mountain as a child. I remained free of Pig Latin Infection until I was in my twenties, by which time I assume I was immune. Like a naked man with a micro-penis doing press-ups in the snow, it made no impression whatsoever.
So, understandably, the whole “secret language only we can understand that is actually pretty easy to decode if it’s written down” idea left me pretty cold. I don’t really see the appeal.
At this point in the recap, I wanted to link to a video of disgraced entertainer Rolf Harris’s nonsense language song “Living It Up”, as it seems apropos, with awesome lyrics such as the below:
“A brand new crazy word game, join me! Adding on a U-L-A!
Jug becomes jug-ula, cube becomes cube-ula
And I love you becomes I love you-ula!”
“A brand new crazy word game, and it’s not from the U.S.A.!
Work becomes work-ula, play becomes play-ula
The end of each word you add a U-L-A-ula!”
However, it’s understandably difficult to source youtube videos of a convicted paedophile these days, which is surprising due to the sheer volume of them that are undoubtedly available (both videos and paedophiles). So instead I’ll leave this sketch on the subject, from the Eighties, which takes on a much more sinister meaning with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight.
End Double Aside.
As a pure moment of father-daughter bonding, I guess it works. But as a bonefide secret language, or even just a bonefide secret, it sithigucks mithigonkithigey bithigalls.
Who in the hell thought this was a good story for an ENTIRE BOOK?! It’s such a small story it could be written on the back of a fucking matchbook. If this was a sub-plot, or a couple of weeks in a single term in a year-long “school” book a la Harry Potter, then fine, I guess. But not as the WHOLE FUCKING THING.
And hey! I’ve got an idea! Let’s create my own fucking language!
It’s simple as fuck. My language is called Pissflaps. It’s gonna be massive!
The rules for Pissflaps? There’s only one:
When you speak, take every word and replace it with the word “Pissflaps.” If you can, modulate the volume and intensity of Pissflaps, and add a lot of ridiculous punctuation.
So, the following sentence:
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
Pissflaps! Pissflaps pissflaps, pissflaps. Pissflaps? “Pissflaps” pissflaps; pissFLAPS. PISSFLAPS?! Pissflaps.
I would rather read an ENTIRE BOOK WRITTEN IN PISSFLAPS than a single fucking SENTENCE in fucking Ithig.
FUCKETY FUCK FUCK FUCK I HATE THE MOTHERFUCKING BOOK.
[Dove: *blinks* Your stress levels have been high for the past two weeks. Suddenly I know why.] [Raven: Worst. Book. EVER.]
To her credit, Elizabeth is intrigued. As for Jessica, she’s somewhat disappointed, as instead of a holiday, she got the gift of gobbledygook. Good for you, Jess. Ithig is obviously shit. [Dove: But isn’t it alarming when you find yourself siding with Jessica?] [Wing: YES. I don’t like it.]
Naturally, over the space of a single paragraph, the twins turn their mixture of disappointment and curiosity into a burning desire to learn all thing Ithig post-haste.
And thus we end Chapter One. We are 14% into the text, if my Kindle is to be believed.
14% in which PRECISELY BUTT-FUCK-NOTHING HAPPENS.
I understand that apparently, in the eighties when things were different, children reading a series of books that centred on recurring characters needed a few pointers and prompts to drag them away from, I dunno, watching the A Team, chomping down Pink Shrimps, and playing with their Wuzzles. [Wing: Raven lived a very different 80s than I did.] That’s why we are forever bombarded with sentences and paragraphs in each book that appear cut-and-pasted. Stuff like:
“Elizabeth could never stay mad at her sister for long.”
“Identical from their long blond hair to the dimples in their left cheeks”
“Both twins feature in Stephen Wakefield’s messy and confusing dreams.”
That’s all well and good. We do need reminders of who’s who and what’s what every now and then. And I realise that, as recappers and (mainly) late-adopters, we are not the target audience and we are devouring them in a way that was unexpected at their conception.
The thing that irritates me is that, in an ill-guided attempt to keep the series accessible to new readers, it seems Jamie Suzanne has been (and assumingly will be) tasked with ensuring that every, say, 12th book in the series has enough rambling exposition to bring even the most sherbet-addled pre-teen up to speed, toot sweet!
I know it’s irrational of me, and also pretty mean-spirited, but I HATE it when a series does this.
[Wing: I don’t think it’s either of those things. While I understand why series authors do this, it’s horrible and I hate it. Brief introductions for books published years (and sometimes decades, NOT NAMING NAMES) apart? Fine. The same descriptions over and over and over and over? When books are published once a month? NOPE.]
I’ve put the work in to get to Book Twelve. I’ve slogged through the awful characterisation and lazy dialogue, the fat shaming and the ableism and the wholly inappropriate wank. I’ve suffered the bad books alongside the good. Other people should put in the hard yards as well.
I hope that this won’t continue as the series gains momentum and confidence. I guess I’ll give it a pass at this stage, as it’s early enough for the publishers to legitimately think their series isn’t memorable enough to catch a readership’s attention.
Chapter Two begins, and Daddy W imparts the history and practice of Ithig to his twinned progeny. Ithig has rules, and they are manifold.
“Listen closely,” their father instructed them. “This is how it goes. First, each syllable of a word has its own ‘ithig.’ That is, you simply insert an ‘ithig’ inside each syllable. For example, let’s take the word twin. In ithig, it would be “twithigin.” … He continued. “But words of two letters or less, like I, it and am, start with ithig. IthigI, ithigit, ithigam, and so on.”
And that’s it?
I say it again… Like, what the fuck, dude?!
Jessica is pretty pissed. She expected a trip to Europe. Elizabeth, predictably, is intrigued. She wants to know more. She chivvies her sister along, offering that this secret would really one-up Lila Fowler (for some unfathomable reason). Naturally, this stokes the internal Black Tar Flame that powers Jessica’s desiccated heart, and the twins pick up the intricacies of Ithig before they finish the breadsticks.
There’s a fly in the ointment, naturally. They’ve been overheard by the gossipy Caroline Pearce. Despite overhearing the Wakefield Demons speaking in tongues, she’s repelled by the rather sinister Daddy Wakefield.
“This is sort of a family matter, Caroline,” Mr. Wakefield said. “You must have secrets in your family…”
[Dove: “For example,” Mr. Wakefield continued, “we have the body of Roberta Manning buried under our porch.”]
HOW SINISTER IS THAT?!
Caroline slinks off, defeated, and the chapter ends with the twins speaking utter gibberish in frenzied delight.
“Thithiganks, Dithigad,” said Elizabeth.
“Ithigwe lithigove thithigis seithigcritiget!” Jessica declared.
“Ithigi knithigew yithigou withigould,” Mr. Wakefield said with a grin.
The next day, the twins are Ithig-ing up a storm. We learn that Stephen is not wise in the ways of Ithig, and that while Mummy Wakefield knows of Ithig, she too has not mastered its arcane delights.
The twins head to school, spouting Ithig every step of the way. Amy Sutton, Elizabeth’s best friend when Elizabeth hasn’t latched onto the latest sad-sack New Girl like a vampiric barnacle, joins them on their journey, and – shock and horror – overhears some of the Ithig as she approaches!
Amy was a smart girl, and she was also very direct. “I thought I just heard Jessica say something weird.”
“Oh, Jessica was just fooling around,” Elizabeth told her. But she felt terrible about fibbing.
And there it is. THAT’S THE ENTIRE BOOK.
This book isn’t a book. It’s a misunderstanding. It’s an incident.
Jessica snaps at Amy, who wanders off. Jess is proud of keeping the secret, while Liz is horrified that her sister talked to Amy in such a manner.
At school, they run into Lila Fowler and the Unigibbons. Thankfully for my dwindling patience, she comes straight to the point.
“Caroline told us that you two have a secret language,” Lila said.
Elizabeth tries to brush off the question, but Jessica, when directly confronted by her spiritual guru, capitulates weakly and confirms Lila’s suspicions without sharing details.
“Ha! She was right! How could you tell Caroline about this first? This is a huge insult to the Unicorns!” Lila hissed, sounding angrier with each word she spoke.
The Unigibbons begin badgering Jessica, and Elizabeth eventually leaps to her defence. She explains everything simply, telling the Unigibbons that the language was a family secret they couldn’t share.
Unfortunately for Liz, Amy overhears everything. And now she’s pissed.
Finally, Amy faced her. “Elizabeth, you lied to me,” she said, her lips trembling.
Elizabeth does her best to console Amy, and they reach a tentative truce as the bell rings for lessons.
Chapter Four begins at lunchtime. Amy and Elizabeth hook up to eat, and Amy is still fixated with the secret language. Elizabeth tries to sidestep the issue, but Amy just doesn’t let it lie.
The conversation becomes heated, and eventually Amy snaps. Stopping short of pulling out a machete and hacking up half of the school, Amy does push the nuclear button.
“We’re supposed to be best friends, and best friends aren’t supposed to have secrets from one another. Sometimes I think that you already have a best friend, and her name is Jessica!”
Well, duh. Elizabeth herself constantly admits this at the beginning of every book in the series. She denies it, of course, but we all know the truth.
As Elizabeth collects her thoughts in the wake of the departing back of a petulant Amy, she hears Lila Fowler laying down the law to a distraught Jessica.
“If you don’t tell me your secret, I’ll never speak to you again for the rest of my life!” Lila shouted.
The twins console each other, equally bereft and alone through the gravitas of their father’s terrible secret. Happily, they use the power of Ithig to lighten the mood.
They raced downstairs to the cafeteria. At the top of her lungs, Jessica yelled, “Ithigi’m stithigarvithiging!”
At lunch, there’s a horrible surprise for both twins. The Unigibbons, sat at their usual table, have not saved a seat for their twinniest member. Additionally, Amy – not usually a fan of the purple twats [Wing: Except when she’s one-upping them with her baton. Take that as you will.] [Raven: Brain bleach required, stat!] – is sat with them, laughing and joking without a care in the world.
As Jessibeth eat their sandwiches together, they hear their names being bandied around the throng at the Unigibbon table. Elizabeth is level-headed enough to ignore it, but Jessica is enraged! In a fit of pique, she decides to blast the room with a hot stream of pure Ithig!
“Thithigis withigill mithigake thithigem angithigry,” she said at the top of her voice. But the girls at the Unicorn table still didn’t pay any attention to her. Raising her voice even louder, Jessica continued, “Nithigow yithigou sithigay sithigomthithiging, Lithigiz.”
Her plan backfires. Liz doesn’t follow her lead, and Lila proclaims the Unigibbons will keep up the silent treatment until she spills the beans.
Chapter Five, and Amy continues giving Elizabeth short shrift. In the middle of their petulant exchange, Lila breezes up and invites Amy to a party that weekend, a party attended by professional tennis player Chris Crosby. In a pointed move to exclude the Wakefields, Lila talks to Amy as if our blonde protagonist doesn’t exist.
On the steps, Jessibeth overhear the departing Amy and Lila, apparently new-best-friends, discussing the party. Jessica is intrigued, as the word ‘party’ sets off fireworks in her stomach. Of course, she’s not invited, and Lila makes it very clear.
As they walked away, Lila looked over her shoulder and said to Jessica, “If you tell me your secret, maybe I’ll change my mind about inviting you to the party.”
Elizabeth thinks the whole thing will blow over, but Jessica isn’t sure.
“… I’ll just die f I can’t go to that party. Everyone’s going to be there. I wish we’d never even heard of Ithig!”
At last, something in this fucking dirge I can actually agree with. [Dove: Twice. We’re siding with Jessica twice. That’s how bad this is: Jessica is the voice of fucking reason.] [Wing: … I’m setting my brain on fire.]
At home that evening, Daddy Wakefield enquires about the twin’s long faces. Jessica tries to share their worries, but Elizabeth shuts things down with a firm hand.
Stephen returns home, and is abuzz with talk of the approaching shindig at Lila’s house. It seems like Lila has upped her game and invited a male Wakefield to drive her point home to the set-upon Jessica. As well as the attendance of tennis ace Chris Crosby, there’s also the promise of soap star Brett Carter! This week, Brett Carter is Jessica’s favourite thing.
I can see where this is going.
There’s one thing I actually quite like about this book.
IT DOES NOT MAKE UP FOR THE COMPLETE CODSWALLOP THAT SURROUNDS IT.
If you accept the premise that Ithig is important, and that Amy and Lila’s thoughts on the twins’ secrecy are well-founded, then Lila’s machinations are fun. She’s living up to her Queen Bitch persona, and that’s a nice change from some of the previous books. It’s how she’s presented, theoretically, but she doesn’t often live up to it.
In fact, we can take this a little further… As I take the view that the whole Ithig debacle is asinine and immature, the reactions of Amy and Lila are actually quite believable. It’s one of the only times I can believe that the girls in the book are actually twelve years old.
I hate Ithig. I hate the reactions of everyone toward Ithig. But I guess that, if we take the whole thing at face value, the childish and petulant responses from all involved are exactly what’s to be expected from pre-teen jebends.
Every cloud, eh?
Chapter Six begins in the offices of the Sweet Valley Sixers. Sweet Valley’s very own Orphan Annie, the beloved Mary, pre-veals the plot of the next book with talk of her mother’s new boyfriend.
It’s a mark of the sheer tedium present in this FUCKING book that I’m actually Jonesing for some foreshadowing to take my mind off the actual story. [Wing: And to think, once you found the foreshadowing charming. Now it is a rope to you, the drowning man.]
Mr. Bowman, He of the Shitty Wardrobe, is keen that the Sixers cover Lila’s upcoming party for the paper. He asks who’s going – everyone bar Elizabeth – and then asks Elizabeth who she thinks should write the article. The Sainted Elizabeth considers her options, before selflessly recommending Amy for the job.
Perfect Fucking Elizabeth. The sun shines out of her arse.
As she’s handing out copies of the paper, Elizabeth wanders into a teacher celebration. Apparently, someone called Mr Garvin is celebrating the birth of his first child. The staff are gathered, and someone thinks it’s wise to give Mr. Nydick alcohol on school grounds… last time that happened, it ended with a visit from the police, an angry parent and an extensive bill for child therapy.
The celebration successfully takes Elizabeth’s mind off things. Until she gets home, and finds a letter with her name on the envelope…
Yithigou ithigare invithiginithiged ithigto ithiga tithigennithisis pithigartithigy…
THE CODE HAD BEEN CRACKED!
Jessica is obviously to blame, as Elizabeth realises instantly. They have a stand-up row over broken promises, with Elizabeth claiming that Jessica’s betrayal was self-serving in the search for a party invite. Nice work, Liz… you’ve finally seem your “best friend” for what she really is. [Dove: I read that sentence as “They have a standing row over broken promises…”, which is also literally correct for this series.]
As the argument rages, Daddy Wakefield arrives. With a touch of cajoling, he learns the whole story. He learns of Amy and Lila’s upset, of Jessica’s betrayal and Elizabeth’s reaction. He apologises to his daughters for inflicting the Curse of Ithig on them, claiming he never expected his fun secret would lead to such intrigue and deception. With a rare burst of parental duty, he gently admonishes Jess for her treachery, and the girls hug and make up.
Knowing her twin as well as she did, Elizabeth wasn’t totally convinced of this. But she smiled and forgave her nonetheless. She could never stay angry at Jessica for looansdjknalsdl\s s,/dfnasdbas, da,d AAAAAAAAAAH I HATE THIS FUCKING BOOK I HATE IT IHATEITIHATEIT
Apologies. I had a small turn there.
[Wing: RAVEN WENT BOOM! RAVEN WENT BOOM!] [My Boom Count for this book was at least three.]
Chapter Seven begins with Jessica choosing her outfit for the upcoming party, and Elizabeth playing the wholly predictable martyr and refusing to attend. Instead of having fun, she intends to stay home and write a story.
Once the house is empty, Elizabeth discovers that she’s got nothing to say. Oh, how I wish Jamie Suzanne had the same Writer’s Block issues when tasked with penning this steaming bucket of monkey jizz. [Dove: I think this is the the result of writer’s block. This is what happens if you put your fingers on the keys and type with absolutely nothing in your head at all.] [Raven: Excellent point.]
Mummy Wakefield offers to take Elizabeth to the mall to buy a card for the newly-childed Mr. Garvin. Wanting to take her minds off things, she happily accepts.
At the party, Jessica is having fun! A tennis court is set up, replete with bleachers for an adoring crowd. There’s a brief appearance from Ted Rogers (the limping stableboy from the “excellent” First Place), proving that the peripherals are important to the lush microcosm of Sweet Valley beyond the books that tell their special stories.
While waiting for the match to start, Lila and Jessica talk Ithig, because why the fuck not. Amy, at first angry that Jessica was there, was astounded by the noises the girls were making. Lila, unbound by the clause of secrecy that finger-locked the twins, spilt the beans on Ithig immediately.
“Is that all?” Amy asked, surprised. “Thithigat sithigeems rithigeal easithigy.”
After the exhibition match, Jessica and Elizabeth are discussing their afternoons.
“Tennis is amazeballs, Liz!”
“Not as good as buying cards from the mall, Jess!”
The phone rings. It’s Amy! Perhaps, now she knows the secret of Ithig, she’ll be more even-tempered.
Heh. Big bag of nope there.
Instead of reacting like a human, Amy is furious that Lila can Ithig like a pro. It’s a genuine nightmare, apparently.
Next day, it appears the stress of fatherhood are too much for Mr. Garvin, and he’s taken parental leave to bond with his family. In his place, a substitute teacher ready to teach music. She has the bright eyes of the newly-qualified, and an innocence that springs from the as-yet broken spirit that comes as standard in the teaching staff of Sweet Valley Middle School. She explains the situation, and begins the lesson.
It goes badly, of course.
Paper planes, backchat, whispering, laughter… all the usual clichés of unruly classroom rear their ugly heads here. Faced with such disruption, the substitute teacher turns to intimidation. She raises her voice in approbation. Jim, the class clown leading the charge against order and decency, doubles down on the mayhem and answers back with Ithig.
Jim spoke up. “I’m sorry Ms. McDonald, Ithigi rithigeallithigy ithigand trithighulithigy ithigam.”
Elizabeth is astounded. How in the blue blazes does Jim Sturbridge know Ithig?
Charlie Cashman chimes in, with Ithig of his very own. Jerry McAllister follows suit. Soon, the lesson is a shambles.
Ms. McDonald was so upset, she couldn’t say a word. Everyone was speaking Ithig, and she couldn’t understand a word they were saying. She sat at her desk with her head in her hands as the students continued to carry on. When she looked up, her eyes were red and her face was sad. Elizabeth desperately wanted to help her, but how?
Oh, fuck off Elizabeth. I’m all for not being an asshat, but there’s a fucking lithigimithigit.
The next chapter starts in the offices of the Sweet Valley Sixers. Amy and Elizabeth are talking, and Elizabeth praises Amy’s coverage of the Lila Fowler Tennis Party. This opens the floodgates of apology, and Amy offers sincere regret for being so ridiculous.
Elizabeth is ecstatic, and of course she begins to apologise herself. Because you can’t keep a good doormat down.
In their glee at being friends once more, they go to one of the two places in Sweet Valley that everyone knows… Dairi Burger!
On the way to the Best Burger Joint In Town, Amy and Elizabeth run into Lila, Charlie and Jim (obviously a few years away from the inevitable three-way). Not content with the recent mischief caused in Ms. McDonald’s substitute music lesson, they plan on taking it one step further. Their intel has informed them of Ms. McDonald’s desire to join the Sweet Valley Middle School staff as a full-time member. Why on Earth she wants to commit career suicide is anyone’s guess. Or maybe she’s trying to infiltrate their troop and gain their trust, like Sigourney Weaver in Gorillas in the Mist. If that’s the case, she’ll have to take down the silverback Mr. Nydick by hooting like a mandrill and flinging shit into his eyes.
Lila is almost aroused at the plan: when the district supervisor comes to assess Ms. McDonald’s performance with a lesson review, the class can spout Ithig until she collapses in a defeated heap.
“That’s a horrible idea!” Elizabeth exclaimed.
“You can count me out,” said Amy.
The Fun Police, in full effect. I agree with them, of course, but even so.
Back at home, Elizabeth questions her next move. After deliberating for a paragraph or two, she decides the best course of action is to warn Ms. McDonald of the upcoming hilarities.
Bad form, Liz. Snitches get stitches.
We’re up to Chapter Nine, and the end is finally in sight. The number at the bottom of my Kindle is 80%, and the happiness in my soul is up to 15%. [Dove: Are you a fucking sim?] [Raven: Admittedly, I often look in an empty fridge and start crying.]
We start in Ms. McDonad’s office. Elizabeth enters, sits, and pulls on her snitchin’ britches.
“Remember when they were speaking that strange language last week in class? It’s called Ithing, and when the supervisor comes , that’s all they are going to speak.”
To Elizabeth’s complete surprise, Ms. McDonald broke out laughing. “Ah yes, the dreaded Ithig.”
Elizabeth is astounded, and Ms. McDonald starts spouting Ithig like a trooper.
High fives for Ms. McDonald!
Maybe she’s not an idiot after all. In fact, she’s catapulted herself into the Top Spot of my Favourite Sweet Valley Teacher List. Admittedly, she’s the only one on it; Mr. Nydick is on a different list (list, register, same diff, yeah?).
Ms. McDonald explains to Elizabeth that she learnt Ithign because, well, it’s fucking asinine and even a chimp could do it. I guess this is more “proof” that the author intended the whole thing to come across as childish tosh, and that we are supposed to be refreshed by the cast’s believable juvenilia. Fact is, I’m well past cutting this crock of shit any slack. In my heart, I’ve put this book to the flame.
It’s Chapter Ten, the Downward Spiral… We’re in the music lesson, and the plan is gathering pace. Mr. Carruthers, the supervisor, is in the house, and the kids are cocked and loaded.
Ms. McDonald, supposedly unsuspecting, asks the class some musical questions, and the die is cast.
Lila Fowler, the ringleader, is the one to pull the trigger.
Lila cleared her throat. “I was wondering,” she said, “Ithigare Ithiga Pithigianithigo ithigand ithiga hithigarpsithigichord thithighe sithigame?” By the time she got the whole sentence out, everyone was laughing hysterically.
But Ms. McDonald acted as if nothing was the slightest bit out of the ordinary. She patiently listened to Lila. Then she answered, “That’s a very good question, Lila. Tithighe ithiganswithiger ithigis ithigno. Bithigut thithigey’re bithigoth strithiging ithiginstrithigumithigents. Does that answer it for you?”
The class are shocked to the core. Lila concludes that someone has snitched. Ms McDonald explains things to the district supervisor.
“Sorry about this little interruption, Mr. Carruthers. We just had an exchange in a language called Ithig. It’s a secret language that the sixth graders have. I’d teach it to you, but it’s their secret.”
Classy move, Ms. McDonald.
The class continues, with no more Ithig to be heard.
Class is finally dismissed, and Lila is fuming. The rest of the sixth grade seem fine with the result, and have warmed to Ms. McDonald – in fact, Mr. Carruthers offers her the job on the spot. But Lila? She’s after blood. [Dove: This is why people love Lila. She takes it personally when her victims refuse to be victimised. True, this is bad form, but at least it’s more honest than Liz’s supposed “goodness”.]
Despite the protestations from her friends, she corners Mr. Carruthers and speaks her mind about the “boring” teacher he just appointed to a full time post.
And Mr. Carruthers SHUTS. THAT. SHIT. DOWN.
Okay, so I’m actually warming to the teachers at the end of this book. I’m sure it won’t last.
In fact, fuck this. I’m done. The rest of the book waffles on about Mary and her “new” parents as foreshadowing for the next book, which I’m sure can’t be any worse that this fetid pile of shit-pips.
Good Christ, I hated every minute of this.
The next book has GOT to be better. (Spoiler: I’ve read it already. It’s great).
I’m sure you know my feelings on this book. But of course, I have to sign off in a manner that’s appropriate to the source material. So, and I’m hating myself for this, here goes:
Ithigi hithigope thithigat ithigone dithigay thithigey invithigent tithigime trithigavithigel. Whithigen thithigey ithigdo, ithigand whithigen ithigthe tithigechnithigolithigogithigy bithigecomithiges accithigessithigible ithigto ithigthe mithigassithiges, ithigi’m goithiging ithigto chithigartithiger ithiga tithigime trithigip ithigto ithigthe earithigly Eightithigies. Whithigen ithigi githiget thithigere, ithigi’m goithiging ithigto fithigind ithigthe prithigospithigectithigive authithigor ithigof thithigis derithigisithigible colithigon-spithigunk, ithigwho withigill ithigbe blithigissithigfulithigly unithigawithigare ithigof ithigthe hellithigish, tortithigurithigous cithigock-withigafflithiging SHITHIGITE thithigey ithigare abithigout ithigto crithigeate. Ithigif thithigat perithigson ithigis ithiga mithigan, ithigI withigill elbithigow hithigim ithigin ithigthe tithigestithiges. Ithigif thithigat perithigson ithigis ithiga womithigan, ithigi withigill kithigick hithiger ithigin ithigthe spithigonge. Ithigi withigill thithigen tattithigoo “Ithithigig ithigis fithigor CITHIGUNTS” ithigon thithigeir stithigomithigach befithigore retithigurnithiging ithigto ithigthe prithigesithigent dithigay. Thithigen, ithigand onithigly thithigen, withigill ithigi fithigind pithigeace onithigce mithigore.
[Dove: To be honest, I couldn’t be bothered to read all that ithig, because I’d just read a really awful book full of it, but I can see swear words, so I’m pretty sure I agree with everything he says.]
[Wing: I laughed until I nearly died over it, so. Well played, Raven. Well. Played.]
Raven out, y’all. Peace.
Looking back at things I’ve enjoyed, and smashing them to pieces with the Snark-Hammer. Lover of games of every stripe and hue. NOT A REAL BIRD.